U.S. President Barack Obama said there was “a great potential to improve” relations with Russia, but also added that Moscow should not go back to “old ways of doing business.”
“I was a critic of the Russian invasion of Georgia. I continue to believe that despite extraordinary efforts of President Sarkozy to broker ceasefire, we have not seen a stabilization of that situation,” he said at a joint news conference with French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, in Strasbourg on April 3.
“And I think we have to send a very clear message to Russia, that we want to work with them, but we can’t go back to old ways of doing business,” President Obama said.
He made the remarks while responding a question about Russia and its role in European security system.
Obama also said: “I think it is important for NATO allies to engage Russia, and to recognise that they have legitimate interests, in some case we have common interests, but we also have some core disagreements.”
“I think we should be in a dialogue with them about how to maintain stability, while respecting autonomy and independence of all countries in Europe – west, east, central, wherever they are.”
Also on April 3, U.S. Department of State spokesman, Robert Wood, told journalists that the U.S. position remained “very clear on the need for Russian troops to pull back to the pre-August 7 lines” as envisaged by the August 12 ceasefire accord.
“We’ve made that very clear. We want to see that happen,” he added.
The U.S. and Russian Presidents said a joint statement that was released after their meeting in London on April 1 that “significant differences” remained between the two countries on the August war.
“Although we disagree about the causes and sequence of the military actions of last August, we agreed that we must continue efforts toward a peaceful and lasting solution to the unstable situation today,” the statement reads. “Bearing in mind that significant differences remain between us, we nonetheless stress the importance of last year’s six-point accord of August 12, the September 8 agreement, and other relevant agreements, and pursuing effective cooperation in the Geneva discussions to bring stability to the region.”
President Saakashvili welcomed the statement and said: “I am very pleased that one of the major issues on which Obama and Medvedev seriously disagreed yesterday during the meeting, and which is on the top of the list of priorities, is Georgia and the issue of occupation of Georgia.” He also said that after Obama-Medvedev meeting “any further Russian military adventures against Georgia” was ruled out.